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Published: August 25th 2011
Vicuña have the finest and therefore warmest wool of all the camelites which is much warmer than sheeps wool. Each animal yeilds about 350grams/year. All this makes the yarn very expensive
Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world, is set among snow capped volcanoes one side and a mountain range the other. It's semi arid land and is home to about 40 families of condors as well as Quechua and Aymara speaking Indians. On the way out we hit 4910m (I think that could be about the highest we go in South America, I wasn´t expecting it so soon).
From Yanque we hiked to the canyon, crossing where it becomes very narrow. In the almost vertical walls, ancient people have built cold storage rooms, colque. After a 2 hour walk in the valley by the canyon many of us were suffering altitude headaches. And that was despite chewing coca leaves on the bus, drinking coca tea at most meals and eating coca lollies...coca is supposed to relieve altitude sickness. Hope we don´t get drug tested any time soon. Or was it from spending 1 hour in the open air hot springs in Chivay.
Despite that, a very small group of us had dinner out and enjoyed some local music and dancing...in which some of the customers were made to participate. That involved being thrown to the ground and
on the way to Colca Canyon is a park where many vicuña roam.
being straddled as they walked from head to toe and back many times. The female dancer spreads her skirt over the male's head. The one on the ground is then bashed with a small twirling ball. I'm sure it must all mean something. They tried to get me involved but my head was pounding by then.
We had a cold night, dropping to -4 and just before we turned in a maid brought us 2 hot water bottles. And Jill and I drank 2.5 liters of water between us during the night. Maybe the headache was from dehydration afterall.
Out at the canyon we joined the crowds waiting for the condors to appear. After 15mins, the first cruised past, below us, returned along the cliff and disappeared around the corner. Another 15mins passed and the flight was repeated, then suddenly they came till 7 or 8 condors, both young and adult were putting on a great display, cruising and circling along the cliffs. The young ones flew close overhead, checking out all the camera snapping tourists. Apparently this is one of the best places to see them, but only between 8:30 and 9:30am. They are having some fun
before they go off looking for food. During the summer breeding season they head off to the coast where they scavenge on the beaches.
The canyon is over 1000m deep and the far cliff rise up 3000m. Wild flowers and cacti grow in the dry soil and where the valley opens out, Inca and pre-Inca terraces grow grain and spuds, irrigated by streams and springs from above. The terraces are constructed with small round rocks that move with the earth and resist collapse in earthquakes.
The buffet lunches on this tour were excellent.
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